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31 December, 2011

About Fear

       Fear is an instinct common to every living being.  It is universal and can overpower one at any time.  A king is afraid of his enemy.  An academic is afraid of his opponent.  A beautiful woman is afraid of old age.  A lawyer is afraid of the judge and his clients.  A wife is afraid of her husband.  A student is afraid of the teacher.  A frog is afraid of the snake.  A cobra is afraid of the mongoose.  No one is absolutely free from some sort of fear.

       The Sanskrit equivalent for fear is bhaya.  Fear is an emotion or vritti in the mind that is produced when one's life is in danger.  There are various degrees of fear; there is simple fright, timidity, shyness, alarm, and terror or extreme fear.  Extreme fear is characterized by pallor of the face, palpitation of heart, slowing or stoppage of pulse, tremor of limbs, perspiration, expressionless condition of the eyes, and in extreme cases, choking of voice, inability to speak, and so on.  The body becomes like a log of wood and the mind becomes stunned.  The functions of the senses are inhibited and in extreme cases one may die of shock.  In most cases, however, when the cause of fear is removed, one slowly recovers from the morbid symptoms and comes back to one's original state.

       Fear is of two kinds; namely, normal fear and imaginary fear.  The percentage of normal fear in people may be only ten, while imaginary fear accounts for the other ninety percent.  Normal fear is healthy, paving the way for one's progress.  It preserves life.  Imaginary fear causes diseases, depletes one's energy and produces all kinds of feverish excitement, low vitality, uneasiness, discomfort and disharmony.  Whenever there is an epidemic, fear is the predominant cause of death.  Imagination causes serious havoc and one becomes a victim of the actual disease due to stress of fear. 

       Following are some examples of how imaginary fears affect people.  A student prepares himself day and night for an examination.  He has passed all the preliminary examinations with credit, but he develops some kind of imaginary fear - examination fear.  And as soon as he enters the examination hall, he becomes nervous and confused.  His hands tremble and he is unable to answer the questions and fails in the final examination.  Another example: two friends meet after a long time.  Somehow they talk all night about the evil spirits.  These thoughts go deep into subconscious mind of one of them and he began to dream that the room in which he slept was haunted and that an evil spirit tried to do some mischief.  From that day onward he began gradually to lose his health.  This was all due to imaginary fear.  Some imagine and think: "What will be my fate if my husband dies?  What will happen to the children and to me?"  Most of us have some kind of imaginary fear.  There is no end to them.

       Peculiar, irrational and unnatural fears are called phobias.  A phobia is an unnatural form of fear with no objective reality.  There is nothing to frighten people, no threatening situation in their environment that should cause fear in them, yet they cannot free themselves from this emotion and its attendant negative feelings.  Phobias are also endless.  The causes of phobias are nervousness and lack of correct thinking and clear understanding.

       The origin of the most neurotic fear can be traced to childhood.  The seeds of fear may lie dormant in childhood in the subconscious mind.  They sprout forth during periods of crisis or stress.  The minds of children are very impressionable.  Mothers and friends should be very careful when they deal with them and should not tell the children anything that may frighten them.  Instead, they should tell stories of chivalrous deeds that will make their children bold and courage.  During pregnancy, mothers-to-be should read inspiring books like the Ramayana and Srimad Bhagavatam if they wish to bring forth intelligent and brave children.  Parents and teachers should have elementary knowledge of child psychology; then alone can they mold their children properly.

Causes of Fear

       The cause of fear is ignorance.  When we forget our original divine nature, we get caught up in the whirlpool of Ignorance.  The infinite fearless Brahman became the finite Jiva with fear.  Identification of the body is another form of ignorance.  This physical body is an instrument for sensual enjoyment and when we suffer from any disease, we are afraid that we will lose our body, which serve as a vehicle for our enjoyment.  We try our very best to preserve this body.  All other causes of fear are traceable to body identification.

       A feeling of inferiority is another cause of fear.  This negative feeling produces lack of  self-reliance or self-confidence.  One is afraid of those who have superior talents, power, position and efficiency, which makes one feel that he/she is incapable of doing anything.  Some physical deformity or deficiency, lack of physical and mental efficiency, and wrong training in children are other causes of fear.

       Fear in all its different aspects is the greatest enemy of man.  Constant fear saps the vitality and destroys one's ability and confidence, which makes one powerless.  It is a great enemy of success.  What paralysis does to the physical body, fear does to the mind.  It is a most destructive emotion.  It breaks down the nervous system and undermines health.  It creates worry and renders happiness and peace of mind practically impossible.  Clinging to life and body, or love of earthly life, are the main causes of all fear.

Fear is illusory

       Fear is illusory; it cannot live.  Courage is eternal; it will not die.  Perils, calamities and dangers are the certain lot of every person who is a citizen of this world.  Therefore, fortify your mind with courage and patience.  Fortitude, courage and presence of mind will sustain you through all dangers.  Just as rock on the seashore stands firm against the dashing waves, even so a person who is endowed with courage is not affected by the dark perilous waves of this endless cycle of births and deaths (samsara).

       A courageous person does not tremble in the hour of danger.  He stands adamant in challenging conditions and circumstances and come out victorious.  He is not embarrassed and bewildered.  He does not sink down.  He is not overwhelmed by despair.  He smiles away all dangers and difficulties and blowing the trumpet of triumph attains victory in the end.

       The threatening of fear is a terror to the heart.  Lead a virtuous life.  Live in God.  Be good.  Serve.  Love.  Give.  Meditate.  Then nothing can frighten you and the Lord of Death will be afraid of you.  The terrors, even of death, will be no terror to you.

       Do not terrify your soul with vain imaginary fears.  From fear proceeds misfortune and failure.  The fears of coward expose him to danger.   A coward dies many times before his actual death.  Be bold.  Be cheerful.  Allow not your heart to sink from the fantasy of imaginary tears.  Have self-confidence and faith.  Your birthright is courage.  You are a child of light.  You are an offspring of immortal Brahman.  Claim thy Birthright now.  Rise up!  Roar OM! OM! OM!

Source: An article by Swamy Sivananda

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